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The Town & the City: Lowell before and after The Civil War

Originally created to be a digital archive for Lowell documents from 1826 to 1861, this website has grown to cover many periods and events in Lowell's history.

“It is indeed a fairy scene”

1825 - 1836

It is indeed a fairy scene. Here we beheld an extensive city, busy, noisy and thriving, with immense prospects of increasing extent and boundless wealth. Everything is fresh and green with the vigor of youth, yet perfect in all the strength of manhood.

In “Reminiscences by Dr. John O. Green” from the Semi-Centennial of Lowell (1876), Dr. Green quotes at length from an article that he ascribes to the editor of the Essex Gazette published in the August 12, 1825 edition of his paper. I could not find the original article, so I will include Dr. Green’s retelling here:

As we ascended the high grounds which lie on the side of the Merrimack, the beautiful valley which has been chosen for the site of the manufacturing establishment opened upon our view. It is indeed a fairy scene. Here we beheld an extensive city, busy, noisy and thriving, with immense prospects of increasing extent and boundless wealth. Everything is fresh and green with the vigor of youth, yet perfect in all the strength of manhood. It reminds us of a Russian spring which starts, as it were, from the silence and desolation of winter into all the luxuriance and life and motion of summer. It seems as if the imagination was transported into the regions of antiquity among the Asiatic monarchs, who commanded cities to rise up and be built in a day. What cannot a combination of genius, wealth and industry produce! At the distance of about two miles above the factories are Pawtucket Falls, or rather rapids. Here the river precipitates itself over an immense bed of solid rocks which extend, from side to side, for the distance of a mile. The whole river is white with foam. No boat can pass these rapids, and this very circumstance which, for ages, has been considered an irremediable misfortune has been made a source of wonderful improvement and a benefit to the whole country. A canal commencing above the falls and winding in a semi-circular course for about two miles terminates by two locks at Concord River. A short cut from the centre of this canal into the Merrimack furnishes an infinite water-power, and this simple contrivance is the whole of the wonder-working power which has created a flourishing town in as short a time as is required in some places to build a log-house. On the banks of the Merrimack are already three superb factories and two immense piles of brick buildings for calico printing. In front of these, on the banks of the factory canal which is fenced in and ornamented with a row of elms, are situated the houses for the people. They are handsomely and uniformly painted and are beautifully ornamented with flower gardens in front and separated by wide avenues. There is a beautiful Gothic stone church opposite the dwelling houses and a parsonage of stone is erecting. There is a post office, fine taverns, one of which is a superb stone edifice with out-buildings of the same material, and perhaps two hundred houses all fresh from the hands of the workmen. The ground is intersected with fine roads and good bridges, The whole seems like the work of enchantment.

About three hundred persons, two-thirds of whom are females, young women from the neighboring towns, are employed. The women earn from a dollar to two dollars a week, according to skill. We stood gazing at this fairy vision at the distance of a mile. The roar of the waterfalls is intermingled with the hum and buz [sic] of the machinery. There seemed to be a song of triumph and exultation at the successful union of nature with the art of man, in order to make her contribute to the wants and happiness of the human family.

In the fourth part of this series, I will discuss some of the public health issues behind and beneath this “fairy scene” and how they were dealt with over the next eleven years. I will use some events mentioned in documents from that period including archived town/city documents, Dr. Green’s diary, Dr. Green’s autobiography, and other primary and secondary sources. The main theme that will be discussed here is that of governmental interventions based on the understandings of disease at that time, culminating in the first Board of Health regulations for the city of Lowell (July 11, 1836).

Local governmental interventions during the years covered in this examination include appointing town officers and establishing a board of health. Also important were laying out drains or common sewers, controlling stray animals, issuing various licenses including those for liquor sales, supervising burying grounds and burial practices, preventing and controlling epidemics such as smallpox, abating “nuisances,” and helping the poor.

Comparing governmental interventions in those years to later decades up to the present, it is remarkable how much of these responsibilities fell to the local city and town governments. This is especially true for many health and safety issues including providing a social safety net for the poor and the sick.

When the Town of Lowell was incorporated on March 1, 1826, the population was approximately 2,300 to 2,500 people. Many of the town officers appointed at the first town meeting provided services that are very different from those we depend on today. The first town meeting appointed the following officers; Town Treasurer, Field Drivers, Fence Viewers, Surveyors of Lumber, Measurers of Wood and Bark, Cullers of Staves and Hoops, Hog Reeves, and Measurers of Hay. Of these, the officers most directly responsible for public health and safety were the Hog Reeves and the Field Drivers. The fire department (1829), police court (1833), Board of Health (1834), almshouse (1835), and City Physician (1836) all came later.

A hog reeve was an officer responsible for preventing and appraising the damage done by stray hogs, also referred to as swine or pigs. In the “Town of Lowell” (1826 to 1836) documents that have been digitized by this author, only the terms “hog” or “hogs” and “swine” were found. The first use of the term “pig” in City documents was in 1845 in the “Petitions & Communications 1843 to 1846” collection. The fits with the frequency of use for the three terms shown by using the Google Books Ngram viewer. All three terms were used in the years 1800 to 1820; however, “pig” was the least used of the three. “Pig” surpassed “hog” in usage in 1830, and “swine” in 1837, and has been the most used of the three from then up to the present.

There were 26 hog reeves in the newly-established town, which is a testament to their importance. This responsibility seems quaint in retrospect; however, it addressed a serious problem in this period of history. One of the first hog reeves was Elisha Huntington who was also a physician and would go on to be an eight-term mayor of Lowell and the Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts.

Loose swine were a big problem because of the damage they could do to gardens and crops. The swine would not just eat the leaves of plants, but would rip them up by the roots, destroying important sources of food. Owners of swine were responsible for controlling them and placing rings in their noses. The nose rings allowed the swine to eat, but made rooting painful. If a swine got loose, a hog reeve was responsible for capturing and impounding it. If the animal did not have a ring in its nose, then the hog reeve would place the ring and could charge the animal’s owner a fee. If a swine destroyed someone’s crops, the hog reeve would appraise the damage and the swine’s owner would be required to reimburse the owner for the value of the damaged crops. There were punishments and fines for not fitting hogs with nose rings and not keeping them penned.

A field driver was a town officer responsible for capturing and impounding domestic farm animals roaming loose. There were five Field Drivers in Lowell in 1826. The field driver’s role was codified in Massachusetts law (Massachusetts General Laws Part I Title VII Chapter 49 Section 240) “Duties of field driver; taking up untended animals” -


Every field driver shall take up horses, mules, asses, neat cattle, sheep, goats or swine going at large in the public ways, or on common and unimproved land within his town and not under the care of a keeper; and any other inhabitant of the town may take up such cattle or beasts so going at large on Sunday, and for taking up such beasts on said day the field driver or such other inhabitant of the town may in tort recover for each beast the same fees which the field driver is entitled to receive for taking up like beasts.

As briefly mentioned above, the Lowell Fire Department was established in 1929, and the Police Court was established in 1833 when Lowell allocated $1,500 to hire watchmen and to establish the court. This police court was a low level, informal court whose jurisdiction was limited and was not yet what we would consider a Police Department.

A poor house was established in 1833 when Lowell purchased 150 acres and built a home for “the reception and employment of the idle and indigent.” An Almshouse (also referred to as a “Poor House”) and Poor Farm were established in 1835.

The first mention of a Board of Health was in 1834 although the authority for regulations and enforcement is not clear to this author. On April 11, 1836, a Town Meeting was held to accept a City Charter, and on April 21, the first city elections were held and Dr. Elisha Bartlett, a physician, was elected as the first Mayor. Then on May 4, 1836, Dr. Green was chosen Chairman of the School Committee and also appointed one of the Health Commissioners.

The first meeting of the Board of Health Commissioners occurred on May 18, 1836 with John O Green, Gilman Kimball, Alvah Mansur, Jonathan Morse, and Ephraim Wood present. On June 10, 1836 a “dispensary” was established in Lowell by the city’s first mayor, Dr. Bartlett, and the mill owners contributed funds. The services and medicines and attendance were provided “gratuitously” to all city residents. On July 7, 1836 that the “health regulations” prepared by the “committee appointed for that purpose” be published in the Lowell Courier for one week, the Lowell Journal for five subsequent weeks, and the Lowell Patriot for six successive weeks.



SECT. 1. Each Tenement within the city, used as a dwelling-house, shall be furnished with a sufficient drain under ground to carry off the wastewater, and also with the privy, the vault of which shall be under ground, and be built in the manner hereinafter prescribed, and of sufficient capacity in proportion to the number of inhabitants of such tenements.

Sect. 2. When the board of Health Commissioners shall be satisfied that any tenement used as a dwelling-house is not provided with a suitable privy, vault, and drain, or either of them as aforesaid, they may give notice in writing to the owner thereof, or his agent, if either of them be an inhabitant of the city, or if otherwise public notice in two newspapers printed in Lowell, requiring such owner or agent within such time as they shall appoint, to cause a suitable privy, vault and drain, or either of them, to be constructed for such tenement, for the use of the inhabitants thereof, and in cases of neglect to obey such notice, the board of Health Commissioners shall cause such privy, vault, or drain to be made for such tenement, the expense of which shall be paid by such owner or agent.

Sect. 3. Whenever upon examination it shall appear that the number of persons occupying any tenement in the city is so great as to be the cause of nuisance, sickness or the source of filth, or whenever any tenement is not furnished with a privy, vault or drain underground, according to the provisions of this ordinance, the Board of Health Commissioners may cause such persons are occupants to be removed from such tenement-And the Board of Health Commissioners shall thereupon issue their notice in writing to such persons, requiring them to remove from such tenement in such time as they, the Board of Health Commissioners, shall deem reasonable: And if the persons so notified shall neglect to remove from such tenement within the time mentioned in such notice, the Board of Health may thereupon forcibly remove such persons from the same.

Sect. 4. All vaults or privies shall be so constructed that the inside of the same shall be at least two feet distance from the line of every adjoining lot unless the owner of said lot shall otherwise agree and consent; and also two feet from every street, lane, alley, court, square, public place, or public passageway; and every vault shall be made tight so that the contents shall never be within two feet of the surface of the ground. And whenever any vault or privy shall become offensive, the same shall be cleansed; - And the owner, or his agent, or the occupant of the land in which any vault of privy may be situated, the state and condition of which shall be in violation of the conditions of this regulation, shall remove, cleanse, alter, repair, or amend the same, within a reasonable time after notice in writing to that effect, given by the Board of Health Commissioners, or City Marshall; and in case of neglect, the same shall be performed by the Board of Health Commissioners at the expense of the owner, agent, or occupant aforesaid.

Sect. 5. No vault or privy shall be opened without permission of the City Marshal, nor in any other mode or at any other time then he shall direct and appoint under the regulations of the Board of Health Commissioners. And no vault shall be opened between the first day of June and the first day of October in each year, unless the Board of Health Commissioners shall order or otherwise; and in each case, the owner, agent or occupant of the land wherein such vault may be, shall pay double the amount charged during any other months in the year for removing the contents of vaults or privies.

Sect. 6. Whenever it shall appear to the Board of Health Commissioners, that any cellar, lot or vacant land is in a state of nuisance, or so situated that it may become a nuisance, and the health of the inhabitants thereby endangered, they shall cause a notice in writing to be served upon the owner or occupant thereof; and if there should be no occupant, and the owner should not reside in the city, then they shall give the public notice by advertising in two newspapers printed in the city directing said owners or documents to remove said nuisance or cause of nuisance, by draining, filling up, or otherwise, in the manner that may be prescribed in said notice; and in the case of neglect to obey said notice, the Board of Health Commissioners may cause the same to be removed by draining, filling up or otherwise, and the said owners or occupants shall defray the expense thereof.

Sect. 7. No person shall remove all carry through any street, square, lane or alley of the city, any house dirt, or offal, or animal, or vegetable substance, from any dwelling house, or other place, unless such person so removing the same, and the cart or other vehicle in which the same be carried, shall be licensed for that purpose by the Board of Health commissioners.

Sect. 8. No person, unless licensed by the Board of Health commissioners, shall throw or deposit, or cause to be thrown or deposited, in any street, court, lane, alley, public square, a vacant lot, any dirt, saw dust, soot, ashes, cinders, shavings, hair, shreds, manure, oyster or lobster shells, waste water, rubbish or filth of any kind, or any animal or vegetable substance of any kind whenever, nor shall any person cast any dead animal into any of the canals of the city.


Sect. 9. If any of the substances mentioned in the preceding section, shall be thrown or carried from any house, warehouse, shop, cellar, yard, or other place, into any street, court, alley, lane or public square, or vacant lot as well as the owner of such house or other place whence the same shall have been thrown or carried, as the occupant thereof, and the person who actually threw or carried the same, shall be separately held liable for each violation of this ordinance; and such substances shall be removed from the street, lane, alley, court, square, public place or vacant lot, by the expense of the owner, or occupant of the house, or other place whence the same were thrown of carried, within two hours after personal notice in writing to that effect, given by one of the Health Commissioners, or City Marshal.

Sect. 10. All dirt, saw dust, so it ashes, cinders, shavings, shreds, manure, oyster shells and lobster shells, waste water, or any animal or vegetable substance, rubbish or filth of any kind, in any house, warehouse, cellar, yard or other place, shall, if the Board of Health Commissioners, or any one of them, so order, be carried away therefrom by and at the expense of the owner or occupant of such house or other place, and be remov-[ed] to such place as shall be directed, within four hours after notice in writing to that effect, given by one of the Health Commissioners or City Marshal.

Sect. 11. No person shall offer for sale, will have in his possession in any market or place whatever, any unwholesome, stale or putrid meat, fish or fruit, or other articles of provisions, or any meat which has been blown, raised or stuffed, or any diseased measly pork.

Sect. 12. No person shall bring into the city for sale, nor shall sell, or offer for sale, any halibut, cod, haddock, or mackerel, until the same shall have been cleansed of their entrails and refuse parts; and no person shall sell or deliver any fish of any kind except salmon, shad, smelts and other small fish, until the same shall have been cleansed of their entrails and refuse parts.

Sect. 13. No person shall bring into the city, or have in his possession for sale within the city, any vegetables whatever (excepting green peas in their pods or green corn in their husks) which have not been previously divested of such parts as are not commonly used for food; and no person shall have such parts or appendages in his possession, in any place, car or vehicle in the city, use or occupied for the sale of vegetables or other articles of food.


Sect. 14. No swine or goats shall go at large in any street, lane, alley, court, square, public place, passage way, or vacant lot in the city; except under such regulations as the Board of Health Commissioners may from time to time impose.

Sect. 15. Any Health Commissioner or the City Marshall, may at any time between sunrise and sunset, enter into any building, or any other place what ever within the city for the purpose of examining into, destroying, removing or preventing any nuisance, source of filth, or cause of sickness therein, or in any cellar belonging thereto-and if any person shall refused to admit such officer into said building, any one of the Health Commissioners or City Marshall may on oath complain to the Justice of the Police Court or any other Justice of the Peace in the city, and apply for a warrant according to the statute in such case made and provided; and shall thereupon proceed in the manner provided in the laws of the commonwealth to examine such building or other place, and to destroy, remove or prevent any nuisance, source of filth, or cause of sickness that may be found therein.

Sect. 16. Whenever any person, coming from abroad, or residing within the city, shall be infected or shall lately before having been infected with the small pox, or any other sickness dangerous to the public health, the Health Commissioners shall make effectual provision, and the manner which they shall think best, for the safety of the inhabitants, by removing such person to a separate house, if it can be done without danger to his health, and by providing nurses and other assistance and necessaries, which shall be at the charge of the person himself, his parents are master, if able, otherwise at the charge of the town to which he belongs; and in case such a person is not an inhabitant of any town, then at the charge of the commonwealth.

Sect. 17. If the infected person cannot be removed without danger to his health, the Health Commissioners shall make provision for him, as directed in the preceding section, and the house in which he may be; and in such case they may cause the persons in the neighborhood to be removed, and may take such other measures as they shall judge necessary for the safety of the inhabitants.

      Sect. 18. When the small pox, or any other disease dangerous to the public health, shall break out in the city, the Health Commissioners shall immediately provide such hospital or place of reception for the sick and infected, as they shall judge best for their accommodation and the safety of the inhabitants; and such hospitals and places of reception shall be subject to the regulations of the said Commissioners-and said Commissioners shall cause such sick and infected persons to be removed to such hospitals or places of reception, unless a condition of the sick persons be such as not to admit of removal without danger of life: in which case, the house or place where the sick shall remain, shall be considered as an hospital to every purpose before mentioned; and all persons residing in, or in any way concerned with the same shall be subject to the regulations of the Health Commissioners as before provided.

Sect. 19. When the small pox or any other disease, dangerous to public health, is found to exist in any town, the Health Commissioners shall use all possible care to prevent the spreading of the same, and to give public notice of infected places, to travellers, by displaying red flags at proper distances, and by all other means which in their judgment shall be most effectnal [effectual] for the common safety.

Sect. 20. When any householder shall know that any person within the family is taken sick of the small pox, or any other disease dangerous to the public health, he shall immediately give notice thereof to the Health Commissioners.

Sect. 21. When any physician shall know that any person whom he is called the visit, is infected with the smallpox, or any other disease dangerous to the public health, such physician shall immediately give notice thereof to the Health Commissioners.











Lowell, July 11, 1836.


These regulations and their enforcement make a lot of sense whether applying the modern germ theory of disease or the then-current miasma or contagion theories. Reading these in the 21st century, we have germs (bacteria, viruses, etc.) in mind even without them being mentioned. Reading these in 1836, no one was thinking about germs; however, they knew that some things should be kept away from human contact in order to maintain health and minimize sickness.

Miasma theory purported that epidemic diseases were caused by miasmas (from the ancient Greek word for "pollution"), which are harmful vapors rising from rotting organic matter. Most of the regulations address the control of miasmas.

While Lowell is referred to as “a planned town,” “a planned city,” “a planned industrial center,” “a planned manufacturing center,” “the first planned town in the country” and similar epithets, Lowell’s overall form was not planned or determined in large part in advance, but grew beyond the original plan in a short amount of time. In other words, the design of the infrastructure in 1822 did not plan for a population of 17,633 just 14 years later. It is not as if complete and adequate infrastructure was built, then the people moved in. In many cases, people moved in and the infrastructure raced to keep up. Adding to the challenges, the materials and technologies for dealing with population density were in a rudimentary phase.

I would suggest that Lowell can be described as a planned town and manufacturing center that expanded rapidly beyond the initial endeavor as the mills succeeded, the river’s potential was realized, and engineering and innovation progressed. The expansion was both outward, away from the center, and inward, as the center became more congested.

The original planning of Lowell avoided the horrible conditions that had developed in industrial England, but it took vigilance to avoid a re-creation of these conditions during the rapid industrialization of early Lowell. The health regulations and their enforcement were a critical part of this vigilance.

Sections 1 through 5 of the regulations address the problems of privies, vaults, and drains and the miasmas they might cause. We can only imagine to problems of dealing with these problems as more and more people moved into a relatively small area.


Sections 6 to 10 of the regulations also address miasmas, but expand the threats beyond human waste. Any rotting organic matter could create a miasma and we can imagine that there were plenty, actual and potential, in early Lowell. In these sections, we see the word “nuisance” and its plural. In this context “nuisance” did not mean annoyance or inconvenience as it might today, but the older meanings of injury, hurt, and harm.

While many of these regulations can be found in the health regulations of other cities in America, Section 8 has a very specific reference to Lowell, “nor shall any person cast any dead animal into any of the canals of the city.” The three uses of the word “any” are interesting and unambiguous; some people cannot cast some dead animals into some canals of the city. All people, all animals, and all canals are covered by the regulation. Dead animals deliberately thrown into the canals were not a good idea at any level.

Sections 11, 12, 13 address a different level of miasma, which I call “mini-miasmas.” Spoiled meat, a fish with its entrails, and vegetables with their inedible parts on sale in a market do not seem to rise to the level of nuisances; however, in miasma theory, a miasma doesn’t have to be large to be toxic. Also, if a miasma causes disease, then spoiled meat a danger not only for the person who eats it, but its presence is a health hazard even if nobody eats it.

Section 11 contains some interesting terms that have fallen out of use in the context of food; They are “blown,” “raised”, and “stuffed”. “Blown” is defined in the 1828 edition of Webster's Dictionary as “To swell and inflate, as veal; a practice of butchers.” I could not find similar definitions for raised and stuffed, but I am assuming they refer to the same or similar practices.

Friedrich Christian Accum (1820) in his comprehensively-titled A Treatise on Adulterations of Food and Culinary Poisons: Exhibiting the Fraudulent Sophistications of Bread, Beer, Wine, Spirituous Liquors, Tea, Coffee, Cream, Confectionery, Vinegar, Mustard, Pepper, Cheese, Olive Oil, Pickles and Other Articles Employed in Domestic Economy ; and Methods of Detecting Them describes the procedure more graphically and in far more detail. In a chapter titled “Disgusting Practice of Rendering Butcher’s Meat, Fish, and Poultry, Unwholesome, he wrote:


THE abominable custom daily practised of blowing, as it is technically called, or inflating butchers’ meat, especially the joints of veal and lamb, with the breath respired from the lungs, to make it appear white and glistening, is a practice which claims the interference of the Magistrates.

This detestable custom unquestionably renders meat not only unfit for keeping, but likewise unwholesome for human food. I have the authority of a celebrated physiologist (A. Carlisle, Esq.] to state, that the meat is capable of communicating the most loathsome diseases; besides, it is such a dirty trick, that the very idea of it is sufficient to disgust a person at every thing which comes from a butchers’ shop— for who can bear the notion of eating meat, the cellular substance of which has been filled with air of a dirty fellow, who may at the same time be perhaps inflicted with the very worst of diseases.

But not only butchers' meat, but sea fish, especially cod, haddock, and whiting, are in a similar manner often blown, to make them appear large and plump; a quill, or the stem of a tobacco pipe, being inserted into the orifice at the belly of the fish, and a hole being made under the fin, which is next the gill, the breath is blown in, to extend the bulk of the fish.

Section 14 addresses the problems of swine, which were controlled earlier by hog reeves, and here goats have been added as well. I am postulating that the swine problem was very different in 1836 Lowell than in 1826 Lowell. In 1826, swine were destroying vegetable gardens in the town. In 1836, an occasional swine could be seen in streets, lanes, alleys, courts, squares, public places, passage ways, and vacant lots in the city, scrounging around for whatever it could find whether humans wanted to eat it or whether it was unwanted and being thrown away.

This section reminded me of a passage from The Paddy Camps: The Irish of Lowell, 1821- 61 by Brian C. Mitchell:

The district retained its native Irish flavor, noticeably is such features as the piggeries attached to most cabins. In the evening when all of the pigs were routinely let loose, the narrow streets were just wide enough to allow them to roam freely throughout the neighborhood. After a while, children were sent to retrieve to pigs, which caused “some lively music in that district” [see Hedrick below].

In Reminiscences, and Recollections of Lowell, since 1831 (Contributions of the Old Residents' Historical Association, Lowell, Mass. Volume I), George Hedrick wrote about the practice of releasing and retrieving swine with a decidedly Victorian flair:


When the canals were being dug a large number of the citizens of the Green Isle were brought here for that work. On what was called '"The Acre" (now Cross Street and vicinity), there stood an Irish village, with the real Irish cabins and shanties, built of boards, sods and mud — such as can be seen in Ballyshannon, if any of the Lowell people ever happen to go there. Outside were the chimneys, built in a half circle, of paving stone, topped out with flour-barrels, for the smoke and for ventilation. Each cabin had its piggery attached to its side ; and the Irishman thought of and cared for his pig as much as George E. Mitchell, of porous plaster fame, thinks of and cares for his smart horse. The streets in this village were just wide enough for the quadrupeds to play with each other, when they were let out of the piggeries, evenings, for that purpose ; and as the young Celts chased them, to get them back to their styes, as was often the case, there was some lively music in that district.

Similarly, goats are not picky eaters and, in addition to food and garbage, they were also destructive of ornamental and landscaping plants as well as those used for food. However, other than the mention in this regulation, I did not find any evidence that stray goats were a big problem in the City of Lowell.

Section 15 returns to the problems of nuisances addressed in Sections 6 through 10, specifically outlining enforcement procedures. It is also interesting that this section has one of only two mentions of the “commonwealth” or state of Massachusetts, and the only time that the laws of the commonwealth are mentioned. Health regulation and enforcement were the responsibility of local governments.

Sections 16 to 21 address smallpox, which was still a problem even though an effective vaccine had been available for 36 years. Although outbreaks became smaller and less frequent, smallpox continued to be a problem in the US for decades.

Dealing with smallpox at this point in history meant early identification and isolation. Smallpox was understood in the context of contagion theory even though the smallpox virus and viruses in general would not be identified for decades. People had identified patterns of the disease over time. They knew that it was spread by person-to-person and that prior exposure and variolation, then later on vaccination provided immunity.

Despite the belief of many that the vaccination was effective and did not cause smallpox the way variolation did, there in no mention of the vaccine in the regulations or in local or state statutes. Vaccinations were not mandatory, but were made widely available by the corporations in Lowell. At some point, vaccination was required by the corporations for anyone who wanted to work in the mills, and by the city for children in order to attend the public schools.

In conclusion, early Lowell is famous for its social, industrial, economic, and engineering innovations; however, the rapid growth and concentration of the population in living and work spaces created the potential for serious public health problems. At the risk of sounding alarmist almost two centuries later, there was a very real possibility of crowd diseases impeding or even ending Lowell’s growth and success. Thankfully, Lowell had a group of rational and informed people who knew that something had to be done to protect the public’s health. They did this without knowing the pathogens that caused the diseases. They initiated effective interventions, including monitoring and enforcement, which I am sure was a string of very unpleasant tasks.

Miasma and contagion theories contributed to the management of public health problems even though they were flawed and without scientific basis. In contrast, humor theory led to the practices of bleeding, blistering, and purging, which were ineffective and often harmful. Governmental interventions based on the understandings of disease at that time, certainly lessened the effects of diseases and saved countless lives making them and the people behind them a key factor in Lowell’s growth and success.